Insiders

Pittsburgh Steelers Have The Right Mix To Be Playoff Threat

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With two weeks left in the regular season and final playoff seedings at stake, the AFC North looks to make that final push to the postseason. Doing all they can to get on a roll and carry momentum along with them, the final two weeks of the season have some serious playoff implications.

This division has three teams locked in a heated battle for the division crown, and if the playoffs started today they would all get to embark on a postseason run. The beautiful thing about the NFL is that no matter how well a team played in the regular season, the playoffs are a new season, a chance at a clean slate to build momentum one game at a time.

While these AFC North teams have proved their salt through the rigors of a hectic AFC wild card race, the Pittsburgh Steelers have the look of a team ready to make playoff noise. Postseason victories are usually about a team getting hot, with everything coming together at the right time. The Steelers have that type of look to them and it’s something that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is aware of.

“It’s huge, you know the first Super Bowl that we won, we were a team that got hot at the right time,” Roethlisberger said. “We went in as a sixth seed and just played great football. That’s what this league is all about; if you can get hot and play your best football at the right time, you’re a dangerous football team. I don’t know if we’re there yet, but we got a win [against the Atlanta Falcons] and we’re happy about it.”

After struggling earlier in the year, the Steelers have been able to turn the corner, finding themselves in position to control their own destiny. The catalyst for this turnaround was head coach Mike Tomlin calling out his team and being a leader of men. The way Tomlin saw fit to right the ship was to bring his team’s deficiencies to their attention, then by getting them prepared and feeling confident through hard work.

“Confidence has a lot to do with preparation and not only preparation, but good preparation,” Tomlin said when asked about his tough love during his team’s struggles. “And that’s the only recipe that I know for combating that and negative or undesirable play is to roll your sleeves up and go to work.”

With two giant home games remaining on their schedule, the Steelers can create some serious momentum for themselves by ending the Kansas City Chiefs’ playoff hopes and wrestling away the division title from the Cincinnati Bengals. In a conference that seemed ever so likely to feature the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos in the conference championship, Pittsburgh has that look of a team that anyone in the AFC would least like to play in an elimination game.

Powered by a dynamic running game behind the league’s second leading rusher Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers have a major component in place to aid in controlling the tempo of playoff games when they ramp up in intensity and physicality. Also in place and working in their favor is the fact they have a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback playing some of the best football of his career. Throw in an excellent receiver who can’t be covered in Antonio Brown and the Steelers field an offensive big three that keeps defensive coordinators up at nights before games.

Pittsburgh boasts a great blend of experience and youth, featuring veteran leaders such as tight end Heath Miller and safety Troy Polamalu to complement their young stars. That experience will prove invaluable in terms of getting their younger players prepared and ready to respond to the intensity of playoff football. Two games left till the postseason and the veteran Polamalu is already planting the seeds, speaking about the difference between the regular season and playoffs, setting the tone for it to be known within the locker room.

“The really unique thing about playoff football is that every play is like a situational play you know,” Polamalu said. “Somebody may drop the ball and that’s a big deal in the playoffs, that’s a big deal in the Super Bowl. The intensity is that just more focused. Until we start playing like that, that’s the only way that we’re going to be able to win this one game.”

Just like a true vet though, the focus remains on the week at hand, the next opponent on the docket, never looking ahead or losing sight on what’s most important.

“It’s the next game; it’s the next game that we got to win,” Polamalu said.

If the Steelers can protect home field and win each of the next two games, best believe the league will take notice and hope not to draw the short straw and have to face the Steelers this postseason.


About Tony Lopez

Tony Lopez

Tony Lopez is a Part-Time Jedi and Full-Time Football Insider who has used the force to cover the NFL since 2009. Formerly a radio intern for "The Fabulous Sports Babe" and then co-host to Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler, Lopez took his talents to South Beach where he's contributed to the FanSided Network and Bleacher Report over the years.